WKU-ULM postgame thoughts

17 10 2010

Well, now I’ve seen it all.

Twice, actually.

Sitting upstairs Saturday during the second half, you couldn’t help but just sit and watch the debacle that was the Arkansas State game a season ago repeat itself.

Over the last two-plus years, I’ve seen this football team lose in just about every way possible.

So while I’m not surprised, I’m still a little dumbfounded.

WKU had a multitude of issues in the second half, far more than one, let’s break them down.

Second-half offensive woes turn into defensive nightmare

Willie Taggart declined the notion that the WKU sideline did some serious clock watching during the third and fourth quarters on Saturday, but honestly, that’s exactly what it looked like at times.

At other times, though, there were calls in certain situations that made me scratch my head.

Take the first drive of the third quarter, for example. WKU’s up 17-7 and can really seize control there with an early score. Starts out well enough with a first down, but then faced with a second and six, Taggart opts to let Jakes throw on two straight plays rather than continue to pound Bobby Rainey – both passes  incomplete, punt.

The strange calls happen again on the next drive of the third – faced with a third and five from its own 47, WKU calls a halfback pass. That falls incomplete – punt. Don’t really understand the need for a high-risk, high-reward trick play there.

The Hilltoppers finally get a score after ULM basically gift-wrapped one for them with that fake punt botch late in the third, but from there, things completely fell apart.

Following ULM’s score to make it 24-14 early in the fourth, a team that knows how to win football games goes on a drive, gets points and negates that momentum.

What do the Hilltoppers do? Rush for a loss of four, rush for three yards, sack, punt.

ULM scores again on its next drive – but WKU still has a three-point lead and the ball with 7:32 to play.

Rush for three, sack, incompletion, punt. 1:41 off the clock.

From there you could just sense that it was only a matter of time before ULM took the game over.

What needs to happen to fix those offensive issues?

– Kawaun Jakes can’t crumble under pressure. He’s got to remain calm in those situations and really turn into the leader that Taggart says he wants under center. If he can’t do that, then the staff needs to find someone who will.

Jakes is a very calm, laid back guy – he’s not an in-your-face guy. Which at times works well for him. But when the roof is caving in during the fourth quarter, it’s Jakes who has to grab the group by the helmet and right the ship.

Anyone on the WKU sideline or in the stands waiting for Taggart to strap the helmet on one more time and save the day himself is living on another planet. It has to be Jakes taking over in those situations. It can’t be Rainey, it can’t be Marcus Vasquez – it’s Jakes’ team to control.

If the pocket starts to collapse – tuck the ball in run. It almost seems that by dealing with the adjustment to the new offense, Jakes forgot why he was recruited to WKU in the first place. He’s a dual-threat quarterback. That’s what he was recruited as, and to be honest, that’s why he won the job this past fall.

Now it’s not all on him, though. The offensive line started to crumble late, there wasn’t much room for Rainey and Jakes didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about things late in the game.

It was a total team collapse.

Taggart put some of the blame on his shoulders afterward saying that the coaching staff was at fault for several miscues late.

He said that the group ‘panicked.’

I couldn’t agree more.

Defensive issues

As for the defense, well the offense certainly didn’t help matters. But at the same time, there are certain stops that just have to be made.

With the game at 24-14 early in the fourth, ULM gets flagged deep in WKU territory for illegal procedure – setting up a 3rd and 15. Knowing that the Warhawks had already gone for it on fourth down three times earlier in the game, you have to realize that ULM is likely going to take two plays and try it again.

WKU plays off and allows Kolton Browning to scramble for 10 yards to set up a fourth and 5, then hits Brent Leonard for five yards to convert. Four plays later, touchdown.

Every flaw this football team has right now was put under the magnifying glass during that fourth quarter.

Over the first three quarters, an aggressive Hilltopper defense made Kolton Browning look like a redshirt freshman that’s learning the ropes.

During the fourth quarter, though, a soft, lax defense made Browning look like John Elway.

He dinked, dunked and pretty much got whatever he wanted – because like the offense, the defense panicked and stopped doing the things it did to get that 24-7 lead in the first place.

Bottom line here gang is this: The entire situation boils down to one massive mental block. Twenty-six straight games, nearly 800 days and more than two calendar years without a win.

This staff and this team can say all it wants about how they aren’t thinking about that losing streak or what’s happened in the past.

But at the end of the day, how can you not?

It’s all anyone talks about. Heck, I can’t remember the last WKU football story I wrote that didn’t have the phrase “NCAA-worst XX losing streak” in it. And I’m not taking the blame on that one, it’s a huge story – I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point it out each and every week.

It’s one gigantic elephant in the room, and the only way to shove it out the door is to fight through that mental hurdle and stop being afraid to win a football game.

I believe that the Hilltoppers have the athletes to win games in the Sun Belt. Two years ago, they didn’t. Last year, they didn’t.

This year, however, that’s not an excuse.

This group is working, there’s really no question about that. And to this point in the season, they’ve really seemed to be all in with this thing in terms of effort. They just continue to be their own worst enemy in just about every way possible.

This thing’s mental – 110 percent.

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5 responses

17 10 2010
TopperFan

Nick Great article. You do a great job!! I agree with you on Jakes. I have been saying this in past post. Jakes is just not “it”. What I do not understand is why did they not play Matt or young Doughty early in the season during the games that really did not mean anything until confrence games? We have nothing to lose. Taggart needs to change it up now before it becomes too late. Once a QB losses confidence from teammates it is over!! Even if Jakes does try to be a leader does the other follow? Have his teammates lost confidence in him now? I still say they should of played young Doughty. You said Nick that Taggart might have a really hard decision during spring camp with the QBs. He now has that tough decision with his QBs. His decision is not for just wins but for the (team) players. Taggart is the leader and now the leader has a decision to make to keep those other players from losing confidence in him. It is time for a change.

18 10 2010
Woody

Did you read Nick’s article? This loss is not on Jakes. Every single person on this team, players, coaches, managers, waterboys, everything just got plain scared in the 4th quarter. To put this game on Jakes and say its time for a change because of this loss is just silly. He made a ton of big time throws throughout the first 3 quarters. He and Vasquez have a good thing going and he also hit McNeal on some good throws. We have to get Doyle involved in the game somehow. 1 catch for 1 yard isn’t getting it done. And has anybody spotted Quinterrance Cooper this season? You would think a senior who has started for the better part of 3 years wouldnt give up his spot so easily. Bottom line is until this team decides to take a game by the throat and win one we will continue to find ways to lose when there appear to be none there.

18 10 2010
TopperFan

You are right.. They are having other problems from other position and other players need to step it up. The QB should be the leader regardless of what you say that is the position in the limelight and the other players feed off of him. Look a other good teams they have a QB that is that leader. I Love what coach Taggart is doing!! He was dealt a tough hand of cards. He started late with the program. I am not pushing blame on him please. I am not saying that Jakes is all wrong. I am just giving my opinion because this is what this is a form to post your comments. I am just saying I do not feel Jakes is the answer for this team at the QB position. That is it. I apologize but I am a True Fan of the Toppers regardless of what the record is I will continue to follow and stay with the team. I live in N Carolina area and I am a alum of WKU.

18 10 2010
thunderhead

Can somebody just freeze me and thaw me out when we start winning?

19 10 2010
FKozowski

Taggart speaks untruthfully about players competing for positions when obviously with him being from Florida, he has a clear cut bias in favor of players from his home state, whether they perform poorly or not. This may have something to do with why Jakes is the only one being allowed to gain playing experience more than anything else. There is a lower performance threshold for HIS players, unfortunately at the expense of the entire WKU football program. Even Nebraska’s head coach had enough sense to pull their QB when he fell into a lull and they tried another QB. Taggart is right about their football team needing leadership and it may start with a better coaching staff. Taggart may think he walks on water, and not even this last loss can humble him. This new staff just may not be the ones to move the WKU football program forward. Hopefully they will not have to drop back down to division II.

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